Mount Adams from afar
I first noticed Tomlike Mountain on a backpacking trip decades ago. For a modest peak in the northern Oregon Cascades, it was wild-looking. For some reason, I skipped Tomlike on my way to Benson Plateau. I found great views elsewhere but always wondered what I’d missed. On Labor Day of 2015, I found out. Yes, it was worth the wait–and the drive.
A long hike up Herman Creek or some other point 45 miles or so from Portland would make the climb a solid twenty mile round trip. My gray hairs would need an extra day to recover from that. No thanks. A longer drive to Wahtum Lake cut the hike by more than half. It seemed a no brainer, so packed a bag and headed for Hood River. When I finally got to the trailhead, a few clouds hung overhead, and the brush in the lower elevations was still wet. I had to hope the clouds would clear. The walking was easy, as the trail arced around Wahtum Lake to meet with the PCT. I found no hikers until I neared the Tomlike herdpath peeled off of the Herman Creek Trail.
Shortly after departing the main trail, the forest started opening up, the surface vegetation diversified, and the trail got rougher. This is not an official path, but it is relatively easy to follow. There is some thick brush, a few dead end spurs, and some rocky patches. It’s exactly the kind of hiking I enjoy–especially when the views started getting sublime. Herman Creek’s large canyon dropped away to the right, with the tiny puddle of Mud Lake at its base and rockslides scarring the canyon walls. As I climbed, I got a few views towards the summit, but it was a long and winding path to get there.
The views continued astonishing me when I was fully above treeline. I enjoyed views in all directions, gawking back at Mount Hood’s majesty as well as tracing with my eye the route I’d followed years before to Chinidere Mountain and the obvious pancake spot of Benson Plateau along the mighty PCT. To the north, over the shoulder of a far ridge, the impressive mass of Mount Adams loomed in a fresh white coat of snow. I continued climbing, huffing and puffing just a bit. Tomlike Mountain’s summit was quiet and calm. I’d thought I’d need my jacket, but I remained in shirtsleeves. I contemplate the massive drop off to the west that felt like the escarpment on a much larger peak.
As always, I was supremely content while sitting on that summit. THe views, the air, the earth beneath me all seemed so right. I had to get up for work at six a.m. the following day. There were bills to pay and chores to complete. For a few hours, however, not a bit of that mattered. The world was wild and beautiful and I was close to its essence. The movement of muscle, bone and tendon over mountain terrain is still invigorating even as it fatigues me more than in decades past. Tomlike Mountain charged my batteries for the week. This was a very satisfying hike.
On the way back, a different look at the lake
Descending a minor peak can be boring, especially when one is tired. That’s one reason I took a variation, the Anthill Trail, to return to my vehicle. Thankfully I was rewarded with a couple final wonderful photos opportunities. This is definitely an area to explore, with several other minor peaks nearby. For now, however, it’s back to work.
A final bit of sunlight told me autumn was coming